Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) is a perennial plant of the nettle family, Urticaceae. It makes a wonderful tea and, stir fried with cabbage and onion, is stunning (not stinging).
This month, Nancy and I have been stalking the grounds near our house where we find chickweed, shotweed (or Hairy bittercress), dandelion and Miner’s lettuce.
I am inspired to seek out these immune boosting plants, in part, because of the widespread presence of the Corona virus. It’s reach feels like some giant above-ground mycorrhizal network.
But what has really inspired me to wake up to the healthy Northwest is author and speaker Valerie Segrest, a Coast Salish Native American.
From a tie to the American Indian College Fund, I was able to listen to her webinar, Traditional Plants & Foods Support Community Resiliency. The webinar was part of the Northwest Indian College student speaker series. She also spoke in January during an Urban Plants seminar at the Center for Urban Horticulture.
Listening to her speak is comforting. She’s calm and grounded. “Building regional food systems are even more important now… We need to tap into old-growth knowledge… The wild does need our attention; we are part of the forest.”
A different speaker, at the Urban Plants seminar, made an appeal to close down more areas of Discovery park to people. Valerie, on the other hand, suggested that plants enjoy humans in their midst and appreciate being touched.
The seminar’s scientist spoke about plants and plant problems as if the particular species was … over there somewhere. Valerie seems to be within the plant.
In her webinar, she started out, “The nettle was my first plant teacher”. Then she described the beneficial aspects and uses of 35 locally-available plants.
Some of her tips for a healthy immune system in these times:
Get enough rest
Spend time in nature
Plant a garden or get involved with a community garden
She warned us, as we deal with the trauma of the virus, not to let these circumstances be “an excuse to get in the blur.” She urged us to support one another and to reach out and ask what this experience is like for our friends and neighbors.
Valerie Segrest is the Regional Director of the Native Food and Knowledge Systems,
Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF)
She has co-authored several publications including the books “Feeding the People, Feeding the Spirit: Revitalizing Northwest Coastal Indian Food Culture” and,
“Feeding Seven Generations: A Salish Cookbook”.
Pacific Feast by Jennifer Hahn
Discovering Wild Plants by Janice Schofield
Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson
Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas
A link to a a pdf with more about Stinging Nettle, from the Muckleshoot Traditional Foods Program and the NW Portland Area Indian Health Board: